Stroll Through History notable landmarks along the North of the River Christmas parade route

NOR Park

Where the Heart of the Community Beats

Located at the heart of our town, NOR Park holds a special place in the history of the North of the River Recreation and Park District. It proudly served as the very first location for the District Office when it was established in 1955, a symbol of the district's commitment to providing recreational opportunities for our community.

Since the inception of the Parade in 1973, this park has been the starting point for the festivities, a tradition carried out in collaboration with North High School. It stands as a timeless reminder of NOR's dedication to bringing joy and togetherness to our town during the holiday season and throughout the year.

The District's roots were firmly planted in Oildale, and like a festive tree, it has grown and flourished while remaining deeply connected to its origins. NOR Park remains a special place, where the spirit of community, much like the warmth of the holiday season, continues to thrive and bring people together.

North High School

A Beacon of Knowledge and Christmas Spirit

300 Galaxy Ave, Oildale, CA

Step back in time as you gaze upon our community’s beloved North High School, which witnessed the birth of the Christmas Parade 50 years ago.

This historic school, which began with just 209 students, has grown like a Christmas tree adorned with ornaments over the years. Today, in the festive year of 2023, it proudly educates 2,100 students, a testament to the power of growth and community, much like the ever-expanding joy of the holiday season.

Feel the echoes of past and present as you pass by this cherished institution on your Christmas Parade journey, symbolizing the enduring spirit of learning and celebration that makes our town shine brightly during this special time of year.

North High School, date unknown, North High Facebook

Rathbun Branch Library

A Literary Wonderland Adorned with Christmas Cheer

200 W China Grade Loop, Oildale, CA

In the heart of Oildale, nestled beside North High School, stands the enchanting Rathbun Library, a place filled with stories that twinkle like Christmas lights. This specific location opened its doors to the public in 1981, but its history goes back to a hero named Mr. Rathbun, who served as the principal at Standard Grammar School. During World War II, he answered the call of duty as a brave officer in the US Navy, and like Santa on Christmas Eve, he brought hope wherever he went. Mr. Rathbun was wounded in action but returned after the war, resuming his career in education and becoming a cherished figure in our community.

In 2020, just in time for the holiday season, the Rathbun Branch Library unveiled a magical transformation after an extensive renovation. It now shines even brighter, like a star atop a Christmas tree, ready to welcome readers of all ages. As you pass by, take a moment to appreciate the rich history and the renewed spirit of learning and camaraderie that this Library represents, much like the warmth of gathering around the fireplace on a snowy Christmas evening.

Oildale Founders Plaza

The Pioneer's Legacy - A Christmas Tale of Transformation

200 China Grade Loop, Oildale, CA

Picture this: In the frosty winter of 1905, a visionary by the name of Andrew Ferguson left the bustling streets of New York to embark on a Christmas-like adventure in our charming town. With a heart full of holiday spirit, he purchased a serene 10 acres of land along what we now know as N. Chester and Ferguson Ave in Oildale.

Much like Santa's workshop at the North Pole, Ferguson got to work, transforming this foggy canvas into a thriving community. He subdivided the land, just as elves craft toys, and built cozy homes that soon twinkled with the laughter of families. With dedication that rivals Santa's own, he piped in water to nourish the land and oiled the streets, creating a picturesque scene that mirrored a winter wonderland.

Fast forward to 2015, when our town decided to honor the enduring legacy of Andrew Ferguson. Like Christmas carolers singing in unison, Citizens for a ‘New Oildale’ unveiled a plaque and statue dedicated to his memory. This heartwarming tribute serves as a reminder of the holiday magic that happens when one person's dreams and determination light up a community, much like the glow of Christmas lights on a snowy December night.

Andrew Ferguson & Family, 1934, and Oilfields, 1994, Photos Courtesy of the Kern County Library

China Grade Loop

A Path of Rich Heritage and Christmas Charm

Nestled between Airport and Panorama, you'll find the picturesque China Grade Loop, a road with a history as rich as a Christmas feast. This charming road was named in honor of the Chinese residents who once harvested watercress along the riverbanks and later cultivated vegetables that would grace dinner tables throughout the region, starting in the festive 1870s.

Back in those days, this road was a bustling dirt trail, much like Santa's sleigh tracks on Christmas Eve, used to transport these bountiful crops to town. On a special day, October 13, 1913, the County Supervisors, with hearts as big as Santa's sack of gifts, approved the expansion of China Grade Loop, known then as China Grade Road. To create a uniform width of 30 feet, they had to carve into the Panorama bluffs overlooking the Kern River oil fields, a task as challenging as building toys in Santa's workshop.

Supervisor J.C. Hart, with ingenuity rivaling Santa's, devised a unique plan to fortify the lane. These Chinese residents originally came to our land during the Gold Rush, beckoned by a treaty between the U.S. and China that promised a better way of life. They worked on contracts for Americans and lent their skills to the Central Pacific Railroad, eventually finding their way to the lush San Joaquin Valley.

As you journey along China Grade Loop, take a moment to appreciate the tapestry of history, like a beautifully wrapped Christmas gift, that has woven this road into the fabric of our community. It serves as a reminder of the diverse and enduring heritage that makes this season, and our Oildale community, all the more magical.

Highland Café

The Festive Evolution from Market to Pizza Pub

2201 N Chester Ave, Oildale, CA

In a span of nearly a century, from 1928 to the present year of 2023, the Highland Café has transformed like the changing seasons during the holidays. It began its journey as a humble market, much like a stocking waiting to be filled with surprises.

As time marched on, it wore many hats, just like Santa's collection of festive headgear. It became a gas station, fueling the community with energy and warmth. Then, like a Christmas morning breakfast, it evolved into a cozy café, serving up comfort and togetherness. With the spirit of celebration always in its heart, it donned the garb of a bar, where friends and neighbors gathered to toast to good times.

And now, as we approach the present day, it has transformed once again into a pizza pub, a place where the aroma of freshly baked pizza fills the air, much like the scent of cookies in the oven on Christmas Eve. It continues to serve our community, much like Santa Claus delivering gifts to all the good girls and boys.

The Highland Café's journey is a reflection of the ever-changing, ever-joyful spirit of our town, much like the excitement and wonder that Christmas brings year after year.

Zorba's Drive-In

A Delicious Transformation: From A&W Root Beer Restaurant to Zorba's

2019 N Chester Ave, Oildale, CA

Once upon a time, it was known as the A&W Root Beer Restaurant, a place where the aromas of classic American dishes filled the air, much like the delicious scents of a holiday feast. But in 1991, a visionary named Louis took the reins and gave this establishment a fresh identity. With a touch of Christmas magic, he introduced Greek food options, adding a dash of Mediterranean flavor to the menu.

Under his ownership, this place quickly became the hang-out spot for North High School kids, just like Santa's workshop bustling with activity. And remarkably, it retains its status as a beloved gathering spot today, where the spirit of youthful joy and camaraderie still shines as brightly as a star on a frosty winter night.

During the Parade, this venue transforms into something even more special. It serves as the venue for the announcers' and judges' booth for the North of the River Christmas Parade, where the magic of the parade comes to life through their commentary and judgment, much like Santa's sleigh taking center stage in a Christmas parade.

So, as you pass by this place, remember its rich history, and let it serve as a reminder that traditions, like the joy of Christmas, continue to evolve and endure, bringing happiness and togetherness to our community.

Aerial View of Bakersfield, Date Unknown, Photo Courtesy of the Kern County Library

Covenant Coffee

From Bank of America to Hope in a Cup

1700 N Chester Ave, Oildale, CA

Nestled within the heart of downtown Oildale, this elegant round corner building has witnessed a remarkable transformation over the years, akin to the magic of the holiday season. Back on February 20, 1956, it was born as the new Bank of America branch #485, a symbol of financial prosperity for our community, complete with a drive-thru window for added convenience.

For many years, it stood as a pillar of the downtown landscape, even as the Christmas Parade made its debut in 1973. However, on July 5th, 1978, it bid farewell to its banking days, like a reindeer taking flight on Christmas Eve. The new Bank of America found its home half a mile to the north, in a splendid new shopping center anchored by Safeway at 2317 N. Chester.

But the story doesn't end there; it takes a heartwarming twist. Today, this historic building houses Covenant Coffee - Hope in a Cup, a non-profit dedicated to educating and employing current and former foster youth. This establishment is a beacon of hope and a testament to the resilience and giving spirit of our community.

Owned by Randy Martin, one of Oildale's finest citizens, this building's journey is a reminder that, like the spirit of Christmas, our town's legacy is defined not just by its history, but by the people who give it life and purpose. It continues to evolve, just as the magic of the season brings joy and renewal year after year.

Wattenbarger Hardware Store

A Family Tradition

1616 N Chester Ave, Oildale, CA

In Oildale, a staple of the community was born in 1936 – the Wattenbarger Do-It Center Hardware store, founded by Jackson Clear (J.C.) Wattenbarger at the bustling corner of 1709, 1705, and 1707 N. Chester. Like a well-wrapped Christmas gift, it served the community with essential tools and materials.

As the community grew, so did the demand for building materials and hardware. In 1954, like a Christmas tree spreading its branches, a new store was constructed across the street. This became the present location for all of Oildale's hardware needs, a place where the community could find the tools and supplies to build their dreams.

What's most heartwarming is that, even in 2023, this cherished establishment remains family-owned, a symbol of enduring tradition, much like the joy of celebrating Christmas with loved ones. It's a reminder that some things, like the bond of family and the reliability of a neighborhood hardware store, stand the test of time, bringing warmth and comfort to our town year after year.

River Theater

The Radiant Theater: A Tale of Entertainment

1213 N Chester Ave, Oildale, CA

In the vibrant month of September in 1939, the curtains rose to unveil the splendid River Theatre in all its glory. It was a grand opening, much like the anticipation of Christmas morning. The very first movie to grace its screen was "Only Angels Have Wings," setting the stage for countless cinematic adventures to come.

But what made the River Theatre truly special was that it was the first business in Oildale to offer the comfort of air conditioning, a welcome relief in the sweltering summer months. The ticket booth sparkled with lights, casting a magical glow like holiday decorations, and the ushers, impeccably dressed in crisp white shirts, guided patrons to their seats.

In those golden days of cinema, for just 25 cents (with kids getting in for a dime), patrons were treated to a newsreel, a cartoon, and then a double feature. It was an experience as cherished as unwrapping gifts on Christmas Day.

Then, on September 7, 1968, the River Theatre began its second life. Buck Owens stepped in and transformed it into his recording studio, like a musical note in a timeless holiday carol. It became home to KKXX / KUZZ radio and KDOB TV 45, like the festive tunes that fill the airwaves during the Christmas season.

Today, its history is a reminder of the joy it brought to our community, much like the spirit of the holiday season. So, as you pass by, let its memories continue to shine brightly, like a star on the top of a Christmas tree, for generations to come.

River Theater, 1939, 1940s (upper), and 1994 (lower), Photos Courtesy of the Kern County Library

Kern Free Library - Oildale Branch

A Timeless Treasure: From Library to Church

1119 N Chester Ave, Oildale, CA

Nestled in our community like a cherished ornament on a Christmas tree, there stands a quaint brick building with an old-style roof, frozen in time since its construction in 1931 at a modest cost of $9,000. This little one-room, 1800 sq. foot Oildale Library exuded warmth and charm, capturing the essence of a bygone era. It was the original location of the Kern County Library's branch in Oildale, a testament to the community's commitment to knowledge.

From 1931 to 1981, when the Rathbun Branch Library was built to replace this humble brick building, this library stood as a beacon of learning and imagination, preserving the stories and dreams of generations, much like the traditions of a festive holiday season. The first librarian, dedicated and passionate, received a monthly salary of just $10, a humble reward for nurturing the love of books and learning.

Today, this historic building has taken on a new role, serving as a church for the Good Citizens of Oildale. While its purpose has evolved, the building's spirit remains, like the timeless joy and goodwill that fill our hearts during the Christmas season.

As we pass by, let us remember and honor the building's rich history, much like the cherished memories of holidays past. It's a reminder that, even as times change, the enduring spirit of community and the love of learning continue to shine brightly in our town.

Standard School District

A Legacy of Growth and Learning

1200 N Chester Ave, Oildale, CA

The story of the Standard School District begins in 1909. With humble beginnings of twenty-seven students and a single teacher, the district's foundations were built on a commitment to education. Generosity played a key role when Standard Oil Company donated five acres of land for the new school.

The original school building stood proudly about one-half mile east of Chester Avenue on the north side of Oil Center Road, later re-named China Grade Loop. In 1918, the people voted to purchase five acres of land from the Pacific Oil Company, leading to the relocation of the school to its present site. This new location, bordered by North Chester and Ferguson Avenue, saw the original and second buildings moved to its grounds, and is near the current route end of the North of the River Christmas Parade.

Today, the Standard School District thrives with approximately 3,100 students and encompasses an area of about 34 square miles. It proudly operates three K-5 elementary schools and one 6-8-grade middle school, making education accessible to all in the Oildale area of metropolitan Bakersfield.

Furthermore, the district collaborates with the North of the River Recreation and Park District to deliver the Standard Explore Afterschool Program, further exemplifying its dedication to nurturing young minds and fostering a sense of community.

Standard School District, 1911, 1941, and 1994, Photos Courtesy of the Kern County Library

North Chester Avenue

The Bridge of Dreams - Connecting Communities with Christmas Magic

Once upon a time, in the era when no bridge spanned the glistening Kern River, our townsfolk had to rely on the whims of nature. During summer's low water periods, they would bravely ford the stream, much like Santa's reindeer navigating rooftops. But in other seasons, they had to part with their hard-earned coins to ride a ferry barge, as if embarking on a magical journey to the North Pole.

Then, like a Christmas miracle, the Southern Pacific Railroad bridge was completed on November 9, 1874. It was a path for foot traffic, though horses and wagons couldn't prance across its tracks. The farmers of Northside, with the determination of Santa's sleigh soaring through the night, decided they couldn't rely on the undependable ferry boat system. They threatened to journey north to Lerdo for their food and hardware unless a new bridge appeared.

In 1877, the County Council, much like Santa's generous spirit, approved funding for the very first local public bridge over the Kern River. It was constructed at the north end of the still-standing Jewett Lane, leading straight into the heart of the Northside settlement. This bridge, like a ribbon connecting presents under a tree, later became known as North Chester Ave (named for the Chester Land Company after the brothers Julius and George Chester), uniting Oildale with Bakersfield, just like the joy of togetherness during the holiday season.

Kern River Bridge, 1915, and North Chester Avenue, 1940s, Photos Courtesy of the Kern County Library

The North of the River Recreation and Park District expresses special thanks to Fred Enyeart, Linda Enyeart, and the Kern County Library -- as well as all the individuals, organizations, and contributors whose unwavering support made this online exhibit and printable brochure possible. Your dedication to preserving and sharing the legacy of Oildale and the Annual NOR Christmas Parade has truly enriched our community. NOR extends heartfelt gratitude for your invaluable contributions.